After being encouraged to buy a house around the corner from her brother, a woman is surprised by his sudden concern that it could be stressful.

Share story

Dear Carolyn

Adapted from a recent online discussion.

DEAR CAROLYN: My brother and his wife recently bought a house, and said — not once but twice — that we should look at the house around the corner that was also for sale. I was a little surprised because while my brother and I get along well, his wife has never expressed much interest in our family.

We went to look and wound up really liking it. We decided to make an offer and asked (before we did) if they were sure they were OK with our making the offer. They said yes (somewhat enthusiastically too!). So we made an offer.

After we did, my brother sent us a text basically saying they were afraid living so close would be stressful to them, and our kids might have issues in school (same ages, not even in school yet). My husband and I were obviously upset.

Our offer was accepted and we decided to keep moving forward. We never responded to his text and there is some obvious tension. My brother has refused to respond to texts about inspectors and mortgages, etc., basically refusing to acknowledge we are going through with the purchase. My brother’s MO is usually to ignore any conflict. I feel like we probably should talk things out, but I am not sure the best approach at this point. Any advice?

— House Drama

DEAR HOUSE DRAMA: When people do something that nuts, “should” is off the table.

Since their roulette ball has dropped into the “panic at your moving so close” slot, I suggest you avoid any remedies that would only exacerbate their fear of being invaded. That means no more texts about inspectors or mortgages (a good policy anyway, seriously) and no “We need to talk” overtures.

So, what would work? Possibly nothing with this crew, but you can try continuing to be in touch with them on roughly the schedule you’ve always been, and seeing them at the next interval you usually would. Prove you won’t be up in their grilles.

When you do see them, what the hell, thank them for tipping you off to this house.

This is, of course, highly weird — no mention of his urging you in polar opposite directions? — but you aren’t starting the weird, you’re just rolling with it. Maybe when you prove you’ll respect their space, they’ll be a little less protective of it.

RE: DRAMA: I realize neither one removes the larger problem of the brother saying one thing and now another, but I’d want to know what “basically saying” means with respect to the text. It could be just a need for reassurance: “I want to be sure we’re aware of the pitfalls of living close by and guard against them.” Or it could be a highly buffered objection: “I don’t want you living this close for reasons that don’t make me look good, so I’ll hide it under concern for our relationship and our kids.”

— Anonymous

FOR DRAMA: DEAR ANONYMOUS: I once lived side by side with friends in an apartment and I kid you not, we didn’t see them all that regularly. Just keep doing what you’re doing and let things flow naturally. I hope they are pleasantly surprised that their kid(s) love their cousin(s) and everyone is better for it.

— Anonymous 2